Earth Myths with a Sprinkling of Data

Some recent articles on dating methods show that tiny bits of data can be used to generate whoppers.

Planetary Radiometric Dates 1/3 Younger

The half-lives of radioactive isotopes may not be as well-known as thought. One decay rate frequently used to date solar system objects had to be adjusted down to 66% of its former assumed value, impacting theories of planet formation.

Planet Theories vs. the Evidence

Planet theorists are putting up a valiant fight against new findings, but in some cases, the evidence seems to be winning.

Paradigm Shift: Impact Didn't Kill Dinosaurs

A new study casts doubt on whether asteroid impacts led to extinctions. It's based on re-interpreting geological evidence used to identify impacts. This finding, if sustained, would undermine the theory that an impact killed off the dinosaurs and a later impact led to the extinction of many large mammals. Even more significant, an overturn of the impact hypothesis would illustrate that scientists are capable of going off on wrong tangents for decades.

Saturn Moons Continue to Shine

Saturn just passed opposition on April 15, making it a good viewing object from Earth this season. Amateur observers with telescopes may be able to make out the moons Titan, Rhea, Dione, Iapetus, Tethys, and Enceladus. They may look like beautiful little gems from Earth, but from the Cassini spacecraft in orbit at Saturn, they are no less than astonishing. Recent observations of these moons add to the astonishment.

Cambrian Explosion: Sedimentary, My Dear Flotsam

"Then something happened." Question: are you reading a science article, or a fictional screenplay? Are you in the Science Department or the Humanities Department? Are you in the lab or the theater? Find out in today's episode of "Explain the Cambrian Explosion."

Dinosaurs Display Death in Watery Grave

Many dinosaur fossils show the animals with neck arched backward. This appearance is so common, it has been dubbed the "dinosaur death pose." Various theories have been invoked to explain it: dessication and final death throes among the most common. A study with chickens shows the arching neck is the automatic response of immersion in water.

OOL for Landlubbers

No part of the universal evolutionary scenario gets more overhauls than the origin of life. Some say it began in the sea, some on the land. Some say it began at the bottom of the sea; others say that is the worst place for life to get going. The latest idea favors freshwater hot springs on land.

More Reasons to Doubt Scientific Pronouncements

It’s unsettling to hear scientists say that long-held beliefs might be wrong, but that’s the nature of science. Scientific “findings” are tentative, not absolute. Some see this as a strength of science, but unless actual progress is demonstrated, that strength is called into question. Recent news casts doubt on various scientific methods and beliefs that had been trusted for a long time.

Lunar Upsets Challenge Paradigms

Forty years after the last moonwalkers came home, new discoveries about the moon are calling into question what scientists know about our celestial partner. But is it legitimate for scientists to invoke mystery forces when a favored theory faces falsifying evidence?

Geologists 750% Wrong in Death Valley

A volcanic explosion in northern Death Valley occurred 800 years ago, not 6,000, “far more recently than generally thought,” according to new dating estimates. The event that created Ubehebe Crater is so recent, in fact, geologists think another devastating explosion could happen today.

Oozing Life Up Against All Odds

The origin of life clearly requires a major leap in complexity, but not just any complexity. A conglomerate rock is complex, but not alive. Life has functional complexity – the ability to selectively take in materials to grow, move and reproduce. Life also requires growth, but not just any growth. Fire grows and reproduces, but is not alive, whereas a living cell grows and reproduces according to internal programmed instructions. Evolutionists think the origin of life by natural causes is a tractable problem that will eventually be solved. Let’s see a couple of examples of how their work is coming along.

What Do Scientists Know About Prehistory?

Evolutionary biologists and geologists speak of events happening millions or billions of years ago as concrete facts. They are not observational facts, though; they are inferences from indirect evidence. Indirect evidence can often lead to different conclusions; in fact, some philosophers like Duhem and Quine argue for “under-determination of theory by data,” meaning that data can never converge to support just one theory. Some can demonstrate logically that there are an infinite number of theories that can explain a set of data. Evolutionary scientists counter that there are only one or a few that are reasonable (implying that theirs is among the limited set of reasonable ones). Recent discoveries that threaten to overturn past reasonable theories, though, cast doubt on their confidence.

A Young Moon for Life

Our moon is unique in the solar system. Just the right size and just the right distance, it is positioned to stabilize the tilt of Earth’s axis, providing stable seasonal cycles. Science lacks data so far to know just how unique the Earth-moon relationship in a habitable zone is among other stellar systems. We know from the planets of our own solar system that moons come in all sizes, from tiny Deimos to massive Titan, and orbit in apparently arbitrary radii from their host planets. What astrophysicists can do is predict what would happen on earth if things were different. That’s what one scientist did. Another discovery could change the view of the moon’s surface being unaltered for billions of years.

Geology Roundup

Wonders under the sea highlight this roundup of recent geology news. Speaking of seas, the Dead Sea also made headlines, as well as data on the question of whether earthquakes are increasing.
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